My default setting these days is “I’m okay.”

“How are you?”

“I’m… okay.”

Here’s the deal: “Okay” is not a cop-out, or a way to lock you out of my inner workings. “Okay” is not flippant, it is not a thoughtless answer. My pause is not one of dread, the hesitation is not a mad scramble for a word to neatly tie up inner turmoil into something socially acceptable.

Tomorrow it is three months. I should have a three-month old cooing and giggling at me. I should be surviving on little sleep organized around a flurry of feedings and diaper changes. My son should be our constant companion to our daily lives. I should be a mother.

But I’m not. My failure rings clear and it hurts.

And yet, I am “okay.” I am healthy. I am whole. I have a wonderful husband, amazing friends, and music to soothe the ache. I know my loss won’t always hurt like this. I may not ever understand why my husband and I weren’t allowed to be parents to such a beautiful little boy, but I’m okay. I’m stronger than I knew. Losing our son so soon after his birth was, by far, the biggest disappointment of our lives, but it does not define me.

Sometimes it is hard, so very, very hard to function, knowing that so many women in my community have recently become what I am not. And that I have to face them, every day at The Day Job, knowing that, outside of my hearing, they wonder what I did to not be able to bring my son home. Some days it is all I can do to hold back the tears.

Sometimes it isn’t hard at all. Sometimes I can leave the empty hole in my heart at the door and my smile feels ready and genuine. Sometimes, I feel like the person I was, before I ever wanted children with this constant and present ache. Sometimes it feels like it was all a bad dream that didn’t really happen, a nightmare capable of being shrugged off.

“Okay” is my way of checking in with myself. “Okay” is reminding myself that I am hurt, yes, but I am also still standing.

“Okay” is where I am, right now, and I’ll be here for a while. I may never be any more than just “okay,” even on the days that are fantastic, even on the days that suck. Because life after losing a child you wanted so badly is like being in a fight. When you’ve been beat down like this, it’s easier to cover your head and stay down. All our natural impulses drive us to take what’s been dished out and pray there is no more forthcoming. But to stand up? To brush yourself off and put up your fists? To keep living? That takes fight. It takes a ‘fire in your belly’ and a certain, stupid pluck to get back up off the ground and say “I’m okay.” Mind over matter. It’s no small feat after something as tragic as losing your first and only child. But here I am. And I am up, I am standing. That’s a start. That’s “okay.”

So please don’t raise your eyebrows or look at me funny for my hesitation to the question. Please don’t quiz me on whether I’m “Just okay?” and then give me a disappointed look like you expected more of me, three months after. I am what I am, where I am, who I am. Take it or leave it.

I am “okay.” And that’s okay with me.

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12 thoughts on “The truth about “okay”

  1. That was powerful. I remember mentioning in a Bible study that we’re expected to show up like everything is OK, instead of how things actually are. People who had suffered a lot got it. Most did not.
    You summed it all up. OK is just fine when it’s the best we’ve got.

    1. Thanks.

      It is so true, though. I think many people don’t want to care, they don’t want to see it… they’d prefer to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that all is hunky-dory in the world. And when they’re faced with people like us — who have experienced MASSIVE pain and are working through it — it makes them uncomfortable. A lot of them, I think, just want us to “hurry up and heal already” πŸ™‚ but it doesn’t quite work like that.

      I may be on the “fast track,” so to speak, but a year from now I know my heart is still going to be sore about Michael. And that’s okay, he was my son. I loved him.

      1. Hey, he still is your son πŸ™‚
        You’re a good mom. Otherwise, you’d just move on in some strange and fake fashion.

        You are spot on. Nobody wants to see what a train wreck life can actually be. I’ve noticed here that everyone wants to be around now, especially old friends that went ahead and vanished for a year. I expect many fake smiles ahead from me the next few weeks.

        Caring is hard. Hmmmmm, that’s giving me an idea.

        Oh, and hurry up and heal already. πŸ™‚

      2. You’re right, he is. He always will be. And thanks for the compliment. πŸ™‚ I like to think I would be! (may still be? maybe?)

        Oh man, I’m sure they are just coming out of the woodwork! I say just take it all with a grin. You’ve earned it! πŸ™‚ (And, I guess you also know now who are the true friends and who aren’t.)

        And hehehe. πŸ™‚ I’m working on it! πŸ˜‰

      3. My perceived bluntness makes it easy for me to smile and nod like a politician while people feel I’ve said something or accepted something. It’s not real honest, but it seems to go farther than saying too much.

        You’re right. I know a lot more about the true friends. The list changed a lot.

        You’ll get there! And you’ll be swarmed by all!

  2. Very good, Heather. I’m impressed . And more than that, I think you make Michael proud. It is an active verb in my mind in that I think he is actually looking down on you and even helps you in this path that you’re on and is PROUD.

  3. I think many of us can relate to “okay” on a different plain. Some days its just a day to get through, others have more joy to spare. One day an acquaintance loses her baby, one day a friend leaves her husband, another day a friend loses her leg, and yet another… the daily anxiety… of dealing with a days difficult reality… threatens to break ones spirit. So what will we do? Bed beckons, drawn curtains, cuddle in, tucked tight, close the eyes, but no. A big no. One more day, we only have to take them one at a time. There will be bright ones again, there always are. Out in the sun, off to do more then seems possible, but at the end of the day it is done. The circle begins again. If we’re lucky we won’t get so dizzy, as it spins us around, that we flop on our face and we cry, but if we do, that’s “okay” to. Cause what the hell, we made it through. As one quote I saw said, our ability to get through horrible days is pretty dang amazing… it’s 100%. Heather, I hate that you lost your son.

    1. Very well said, MJ. Everyone does have their “down” times just like everyone has “up” times.

      I like that quote about our ability to survive bad times is 100%. Yes. YES. πŸ™‚

      And thank you for caring. You are a sweet soul. πŸ™‚ My life right now is not pretty that’s for sure, but I’m making it through, and maybe I’ll get another chance someday. πŸ™‚

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